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can we talk about Frank Lloyd Wright?

So, I have a degree in architecture.* You may think that means I am a fan of the most famous of all architects, Frank Lloyd Wright.

But the fact is that I am not a fan. Not even a little bit. I realize this is not a majority opinion.

Sure, his buildings were (and are) interesting to look at. He broke a lot of design standards. He was innovative.

But his buildings had (and still do have) problems. Like water leaks. Like structural problems. Like a lack of planning for future maintenance/upkeep. Like his giant ego that stood in the way of, well, a lot of things. Here’s a longer list, if you’re interested.**

We stopped at an FLW-designed church in Phoenix and it had easy examples of the stuff I just don’t like.

I am not a tall person. Not at all. This photo was made from my eye level looking at a wide concrete roof structure. Seems sort of low, right? It was. I could touch it. And again, I am not a tall person. FLW was, famously, not a tall man. And it really fells like he designed his buildings to be uncomfortable for tall (or normal-height!) people. (See note above re. his ego.) I found this quote, which I enjoyed reading: “Wright’s architectural modus operandi was to build things to suit himself, and to hell with the rest of mankind. He told his students, “I took the human being, at five feet eight and one-half inches tall, like myself, as the human scale. If I had been taller, the scale might have been different.” (The very best part is that he was actually 5′-7″, which is not the 5′-8.5″ he said, which is also amusing.)

Now, look at the underside of the roof structure? See those splotchy things? That’s where the concrete is spalling away, which is a thing concrete does as a result of continual water leaks. This is in Phoenix. Phoenix gets eight inches of rain per year. Yet still…there’s visible water damage on the building. (Not pictured is a place where the concrete had completely broken off of a column, leaving rebar exposed to the elements. That’s not generally considered a desirable outcome for concrete structures.

First Christian Church
Phoenix, Arizona
photographed 12.27.2022

*I know. It doesn’t seem right to me, either. And I am sure that my university is similarly bewildered.

**The article did say that FLW’s genius “justified” his design mistakes. I call bullshit.

sun stripes and side eye

Moving on now, after what seems like a really long run of Cuban images.

This was at the Library of Congress on a sunny morning.

The man at the information desk at the entry told me that the second floor was the “grandest room in the District,” a comment I took as hyperbole. Until we walked upstairs. The room is covered with tiny mosaic tiles, some of which are gold and caught the light in a way that made the whole place just glow.

Library of Congress
Washington, DC
photographed 11.22.2022

PS: Today starts my 15th year of posting daily photos. It started out to be a one-year “let’s see what happens” sort of deal; I had no idea THIS is what would happen – that I’d still be doing it, that I would have posted over 5,000 images, that I’d start to think of myself as a Photographer. I guess it shows the power of trusting the process, even if you’re not sure what the process even is.

in the garden

A kind gentleman saw us photographing through the fence and invited us inside to look around.

If I am correct about our location, we’d found the Seminario de San Carlos y San Ambriosio*. But I could be mistaken. When I’m traveling, I like to keep up with my location on my phone: I am A Person Who Reads Maps. I like to know where I am, and I like to be able to see where I am compared to other landmarks. Cell service (through my provider) was non-existent in Cuba, which meant I was unaware of where I was. Sometimes, I can use my memory about landmarks that were nearby to roughly gauge where I was, and that’s how I *think* I know where this photo was made.

And here’s something maybe you don’t know: online maps do show Cuba, but street views are not available. In case you were wondering about that.

Havana, Cuba
photographed 11.7.2022

*The actual seminary is now located outside of Havana. This building currently houses (among other things, probably) a Catholic primary school.

a world behind the door

I can tell you right this minute that “faded beauty” is not always hyperbole: it is, in this case, exactly the right description.

Imagine if this place were freshly painted, if the stair railing were not half-way missing, if all those tiles on the wall matched. It wouldn’t be nearly as lovely, would it?

Havana, Cuba
photographed 11.6.2022

font angel

I love church statues. And if the statue is an angel, swooping down with a shell-shaped font? You know I’ll love that even more than a normal statue.

And then, when I get home, I have the pleasure of editing the image.

What a life!

Chiesa de San Giuseppe dei Padri Teatini
Palermo, Sicily
photographed 8.31.2022

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